The Last Days of a Rake
Donna Lea Simpson
I've long been a fan of Donna Simpson. Her traditional Regency, Lord St. Claire's Angel, is among my all-time favorite trads, and is actually responsible (along with Anne Gracie's Tallie's Knight) for turning me into a rabid trad reader nearly a decade ago. I also enjoyed Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark and was frustrated when it did not result in a series as expected.
Earlier this summer I finally activated my long-dormant netgalley.com membership, and among the first stories I asked to read were Simpson's Love and Scandal, and its "companion piece," The Last Days of a Rake, a free download available at Carina Press, the digital-only imprint from Harlequin. Most people would have read the full-length book first, but I like to whet my appetite when possible with shorter stories, and TLDOAR indeed hit the spot. This death-bed confession of a cad and roué should be required reading for those of us who romanticize rakes. If you've adored more than a few reformed rake romances in the past - and who hasn't? - I think you'll be captivated by this first-person narrative, in which the dying Edgar Lankin traces his rise as a man devoted to slaking his desires and eventually falling into loneliness and self-loathing.
He purposely plots as part of his debauchery the ruination each Season of a beautiful young woman simply because he can. This raises the stakes as the reader realizes she's reading about a thoroughly selfish and unlikable character, and while Lankin remains a small man throughout, his efforts at redemption after he hits rock bottom (think the scene in Inception of the opium-like den) are filled with poignance because of their futility. And because he knows they're futile.
Simpson's novella is serious, thoughtful, and well-written. It packs a punch in a limited word count and I look forward to reading the full-length book it accompanies.
I reviewed this book after receiving a digital copy from the publisher.